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Book Reviews 1

VEDIC BOOKSHELF

The Aryan Invasion: New Light on an Old Problem

 

Books reviewed

Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization by Navaratna S. Rajaram and David Frawley, with a Foreword by Klaus K. Klostermaier, 2nd edition. 1997. Voice of India, New Delhi. Price Rs 450 (HB), Rs 150 (PB). Pages: 328 + xxi. Reviewed by Professor K.D. Prithipaul.

The Politics of History: Aryan Invasion Theory and the Subversion of Scholarship by N.S. Rajaram. 1995. Voice of India, New Delhi. Price Rs 150 (HB), Rs 100 (PB). Pages: 243 + xviii. Reviewed by Professor Uma Erry.

The Aryan Invasion Theory: A Reappraisal, by Shrikant Talageri, with a Foreword by S.R. Rao. 1993. Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi. Price Rs. 350 (HB). Pages 373 + ix. Reviewed by Dr. N.S. Rajaram.

The Problem of Aryan Origins: From an Indian Point of View, by K.D. Sethna, Second enlarged edition. 1992. Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi. Price Rs. 450 (HB). Pages 443 + xiii. Reviewed by Dr. N.S. Rajaram

 

Review of Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization

The impact of colonization during the British domination was not merely political and economic. It extended to the collective psychology of the people and the latter’s perception of its own culture. This was noticeable in the manner in which the educated Indian citizen came to view his past history. The myth, which quickly gained credence in academic circles, arose from the Western Indologists’ view that ancient Indian history was initiated by an invasion of Aryans coming from somewhere in Central Asia. Several generations of Indian scholars, honestly mistaken by the prestige which the learned philologists trained in the scientific and ‘objective’ methods of research in Western academe, conscientiously taught and wrote the history of their country by taking the myth of the Aryan invasion as the starting point.

Of late however, some Indian and Western historians and certain institutions in India and the West have deemed it necessary, under the imperative of truth-seeking, to re-examine the premises of the Western philologists’ claim of the veracity of an Aryan invasion and its cultural consequences. Dr. N.S. Rajaram and Dr. David Frawley have, in this context, brought forth a cogent, coherent argument which purports to lay to rest once and for all the erroneous theory of the Aryan invasion of India around 1500 BC.

To buttress their thesis, the authors use their deep knowledge of the Sanskrit language, their acquaintance with the most recent archaeological discoveries, their expertise in mathematics and in computing science. In short, they bring to focus a remarkable synthesis of several "disciplines" to unlock the secrets of Sanskrit texts which the early Indologists overlooked. The evidence thus brought forth from several original sources provides sound reasons to refute the earlier invasion theory.

The dominant idea which gives the clue to their theme is that while the Aryans have a literature, but have no history or geography, the Harappans have a sophisticated urban civilization, a history and geography, but no language or literature. The paradox disappears when the two are assimilated into a unitive history and geography. It becomes logical then to argue for North India to be the original home of the Aryans. The authors further argue for a reversal of the movement of the Aryans: they moved out of India into the outlying areas, into Persia and beyond. This new theory receives support from archaeology, from a comparative analysis of Mesopotamian and Egyptian mathematics with Vedic mathematics.

It is evident that the polyvalent learning of the authors provides a better insight into the secrets of the past than the mere gratuitous speculations of the earlier Indologists, of Max Müller in particular. In fact the authors do pay a worthy tribute to Max Muller for his many attainments and his contributions to the discovery of India by Western scholars. At the same time, faithful to their own insights and convictions, based on their own findings, they demonstrate how the invasion theory was more an expression of the prejudice fed by the racist theories spawned by Western academic anthropology supported by triumphant colonial enterprises of the West European countries. (See also The Politics of History by N.S. Rajaram reviewed in this volume.)

The significance of the work consists in being an important confirmation of Indian history having at last come into its own, freed from the distortions of the arbitrary normative conclusions of Western historians. The authors pay tribute to other contributors, like K.D. Sethna, S. Talageri, S.B. Roy, K.C. Varma, Udaya Veera Shastri and others whose contributions have altered the perceptions of ancient Indian history with the evidence that it actually had an indigenous genesis. With a fair measure of self-reliance and confidence they even propound the thesis that it spread out to other parts of West Asia and Africa.

A welcome aspect of this work is the refutation of certain Marxist Indian historians who persist in their attachment to superstitious theories bequeathed by the Indologists of Max Muller’s generation. The authors rightly point out that "not a single significant contribution should have come from Indian historians belonging to the elite ‘establishment’." At the same time they make it clear that they are not driven by the need to write an apology of Indian chauvinistic nationalism. Theirs is a statement of veracity based on hard facts.

At the same time the authors recognize that their work is not the last say in the ongoing process of unveiling the truth about ancient Indian history. They acknowledge that gaps still remain in the task of reinterpreting Vedic history. Nevertheless, their contribution provides substantial material which will enable the historians of India to work for the common purpose of knowing what happened at the beginning of the Vedic Civilization and collaborate with one another to bring about a synthetic reconstruction of the historical integrity of the country.

Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization stands out as a major original fresh statement of what India was. It is lucidly written, marked at times with an unusual sense of humor. The intricacies of mathematical discussions, of Vedic linguistics, are expressed with clarity in a language that will appeal to both the scholar and the layman. This is indeed a felicitous way of writing about a difficult and abstruse subject. The book is commendable for its style, the seriousness of its purpose, and the originality of the thesis which claims to establish the moral and intellectual order that marked the early Vedic culture region which then stood as a greenhouse in which were grown saplings which were subsequently transplanted and grew into civilizations in the surrounding lands.

The reader must rush to read this very well written book on a subject which will fascinate someone even unacquainted with the history of India.

Editor’s comment: Professor Prithipaul’s review was based on the manuscript of the first edition, but applies in all essentials to the second. The second edition is recommended.

Professor K.D. Prithipaul

Department of Comparative Religion, University of Alberta, Canada

 

Review of The Politics of History

N.S. Rajaram in his book, The Politics of History explodes our belief in the age-old theory of the Aryan invasion and shatters the myth about the origins of the Vedic civilization. He has provided an unbiased and a genuinely inquiring reader with sufficient and stimulating material for thought. His book is an excellent study of ancient India and the Vedic civilization; the honest reader has no choice but to re-examine his understanding of history. Truth by its very nature demands courage to acknowledge and accept it. The book offers a clearer and deeper insight into our ancient past, the Vedas and the Puranas. The present-day Indian historians need to correct their myopic vision of history and their die-hard prejudices. They should not only realign their frontiers of knowledge, but also be bold enough to rewrite the history of the land.

Rajaram’s book is the most systematic and thorough study of the Aryan invasion theory presented to date. He traces the origin and development of this ugly theory which, according to him, is "a colossal intellectual blunder" of the 19th century European scholars, particularly, Max Müller. The author points out that Indian history was created by men who were neither Indians nor historians but European linguists. What were the causes of this grim blunder and how did it happen, is discussed in the chapter "Sahibs and Pundits." Ignorance of the scientific method and lack of archaeological data coupled with European politics and missionary interests were the main forces behind this mythical creation. Also the upsurge of German nationalism in the 19th century, and the German dislike of any association with Semitic origin, added to this conspiracy. The author shows how this contributed to the growth of racial science, which dominated European thought in the 19th century. European linguistics had a great deal more to do with the Aryan invasion theory than was realized.

The author strongly condemns the present-day Indian historians of the elite institutions in India, who have totally ignored the latest findings of archaeology carried out by scientists and scholars like S.R. Rao, V.S. Wakankar and Shrikant Talageri, findings which, when studied and integrated with the Puranas, give us a totally different sense. (See review of Talageri’s book in the same feature — Editor.) The Vedic civilization dates back to 7000 BC, whereas the Harappan civilization represents nothing but a continuation of the early Vedic civilization. It was indeed the "twilight of the Vedic civilization" and belonged to the Sutra period of the Vedic literature. And this vast civilization came to an end because of ecological reasons, particularly the drying up of the mighty Sarasvati River. That there was a mighty river, which used to flow through Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan has been discovered by Wakankar’s exploration and confirmed by satellite photography. Archaeological sites have been found on the riverbed which show that the river gradually became weaker and finally dried up around 1900 or 2000 BC. But to get back to the accounts in ancient literature, the second Mandala of the Rigveda mentions the great Sarasvati River about fifty times, while the Ganga is mentioned only once, and the seventh Mandala, attributed to Rishi Vasistha, says, "the Sarasvati is a mighty stream" that flowed from the "mountain to the sea … nourishing the children of Nahusha," RV VII.95.2. The ‘Children of Nahusha’ refers to the rulers of the famed Bharata Dynasty, and the inhabitants of the Sarasvati heartland. (Sic: The whole of the Rigveda, and not just the second Mandala mentions the Sarasvati about fifty times — Editor.)

In his analysis of the Aryan invasion theory, according to which the Aryans entered into India, from Central Asia — the writer has assigned a whole chapter to Max Müller, the father of this "divine theory". The chapter ‘Max Müller’s Ghost’ gives a comprehensive account and evaluation of his work. While he exposes his sham scholarship and a rather superficial rendering of the Rigveda, he lauds the great effort to bring out a monumental 51-volume (Sic: 50) "Sacred Books of the East", which ironically led to a resurgence of interest among the Indians in their ancient works. Thus his early goal of discrediting the Indian scriptures by giving a negative interpretation had exactly the opposite effect. Max Müller rejected the astronomical evidence for Vedic chronology as suggested by Colebrook. He assigned Vedic dates so as to coincide with his firm belief in Biblical chronology, "according to which the creation of the world was said to have taken place at 9 AM on October 23, 4004 BC." Though Max Müller later repudiated his own chronology for the Vedic literature, he was "an extremely political creature, who did not hesitate to use his position as Vedic scholar to advance the cause of German nationalism with his theories about the Aryan race."

Max Müller ’s theory was taken up by the nineteenth century linguists and other scholars, who, after discovering Sanskrit and the relationship which it bears to European languages, hit upon the existence of a Proto Indo-European language to preserve their ‘pet theory’ of the Aryan invasion. The linguistic approach to history reveals how the human mind can pervert facts, and how preconceived ideas can falsify one’s view of events. Nineteenth century linguists "built whole historical scenarios around untested linguistic conjectures." It proved to be a "monumental failure of vision" as shown by archaeology, which began to have an enormous bearing on the study of history. "All fanciful historical scenarios began to crumble" in the face of data from archaeology, mathematics and other sources, observes the author. Archaeologists have now proved the existence of a vast civilization, the great Sarasvati-Sindhu Civilization, spread over more than a million and a half square kilometers.

Where did the Aryans originate from? Who were they, and what does the word Aryan mean, and how it was misinterpreted by European Indologists, are all discussed in [the chapter] ‘Emperor’s Clothes.’ According to the Puranas, Eastern UP and Northwest Himalayas (Sic: Northeast Himalayas) was the original home of the Aryans. While there is no evidence and support for the Aryan invasion theory, there is abundant evidence to show that massive movements of the Vedic Aryans took place out of India (that is, in the reverse order) into West and Central Asia. Linguistic analysis by S.S. Mishra, as well as archaeological records of the Hittites, Mittani and the Kassites all point to an expansion of the "Vedic Aryans out of India into West and Central Asia." And this is also what the Puranas have to say: they record a series of migrations out of India resulting from wars as well as natural calamities. Aryan tribes settled in Persia, Parthia and Anatolia. (The Puranas record them as Parsus and Partavas.) Indian emperor Mandhata drove the troublesome Druhyus out of India before 4600 BC, and according to Talageri (1993), "they became the Celtic Druids of Europe, which fits in with the latter’s tradition of tracing their origin to Asia." Then there is question of Zoroaster, his date and his origin. The Bhavisya Purana (139, 13-15) records, "contrary to the Vedic practices, your son will become famous by name of Mag. His name will be Jarathushtra Mag — and will bring fame to the dynasty. His descendents will worship fire and will be known by the name Mag (Saka), and being Soma worshippers (Magadha Sakadvipi) will be known as Mag Brahmins." All this is so contrary to what we have been subjected to learning in history books.

Putting aside the verdict of the Puranas and the Vedas, we may legitimately ask how has the writer resolved the main issue, in other words, what is the scientific basis used by the author for repudiating the Aryan invasion theory? What are the flaws and contradictions pointed out by the writer?

The chapter ‘Ancient India and the Modern World’ focuses on this main issue. The strength of the main argument and the evidence rest on the recent findings of archaeology and satellite photography, which have proved the existence of the ancient Sarasvati River and unearthed archaeological sites on the riverbed; what the historians earlier labelled as the Indus Valley sites in areas where none of the Indus rivers flow, and were therefore a source of mystery to archaeologists, have now been proved to lie along the course of the great Sarasvati River. Wakankar’s discovery of the ancient Sarasvati helped to resolve the mystery. Mark Kenoyer, a North American archaeologist (1991) has provided a detailed archaeological map of the whole of Northwest India.

But the Rigveda tells us all this and much more; while it mentions the Ganga only once, it lauds the great Sarasvati fifty times. It also describes the geography of North India as it was before the Sarasvati dried up. The Harappan Civilization of the Indus Valley was a continuation of the Vedic Civilization; its ending coincided with the drying up of the Sarasvati around 2000 BC. Archaeological studies have shown that there was a gradual depletion of water resources that culminated in a drought in the 2200 BC to 1900 BC [period]. It was a global phenomenon that affected civilizations across the immense belt of Southern Europe to India. As S.R. Rao says, "People were forced to seek new lands for settlement. The refugees from Mohenjo-Daro and Southern sites in Sind fled to Saurashtra and later occupied the interior of the peninsula." In addition to all this, the writer provides evidence of geography, astronomy and literature and metallurgy, and evidence of the mathematics or the Sulvasutras, often called Vedic Mathematics, which was discovered by Seidenberg to be the source of "all ancient mathematics from India to Old Babylonia to Egypt to Pythagorean Greece."

All this is an unmistakable pointer to the existence and supremacy of a vast Vedic Civilization spanning over thousands of years and kept alive throughout by a living tradition. India is the only country where the ancient past still breathes. Jean Le Meé, a French student of the Vedas observes, "the pyramids have been eroded by the desert wind, the marble broken by earthquakes and the gold stolen by robbers, while the Veda is recited daily by an unbroken chain of generations traveling like a great wave through the living substance of mind." If historical research could be intensified by the new generation of scholars, by combining tradition with science, all history and not just India will benefit, says the author of this brilliant book.

Professor Uma Erry

Bhavan’s Journal, July 15, 1996

 

Review of The Aryan Invasion Theory, A Reappraisal Srikant Talageri

The writing of Indian history has been dominated by political considerations for well over a century. First it was the nineteenth century European biases which sought to present European as the pinnacle of world civilizations. This was compounded by the aspirations of the emerging German nationalism, and British colonial interests. Christian missionaries also got on the bandwagon of European colonialism and rewrote the history of India to facilitate conversion. The result was the Aryan invasion version of ancient history and the denigration of Indian contributions. After independence, one had reason to hope that Indian scholars might go back to the primary sources and use scientific methods to recast Indian history on a more rational basis. They after all are in the best position to do so.

Unfortunately this did not come about. For reasons that are unnecessary to go into here, the Indian history establishment came to be dominated by Marxist ideologues who went about recasting all periods of Indian history to be conformity with the Marxist theology. This resulted in a serious lowering of standards and the failure of any Indian school of thought to emerge, despite a millennia-old Indian tradition and its matchless records. This background is necessary to understand why really significant and original contributions to Indian scholarship have come from outside the leftist dominated academic mainstream.

Fortunately there are signs of fresh wind blowing. There are now scholars — mainly outside the establishment — who are both original thinkers and compelling writers. One of them is Shrikant Talageri, the author of the book under review. His book upsets the whole framework built on the belief that the Rigveda contains the oldest records of India; Talageri’s contention, well supported, is that the much-maligned Puranas actually contain the accounts of the oldest dynasties of India. With this seemingly simple shift, he not only presents a coherent picture of ancient India, but also arrives at a plausible scenario for the origin and spread of the Indo-European speakers. When Talageri’s book appeared in 1993, this was like a bolt from the blue; the late Girilal Jain wrote a major article on it, which appeared on the center page of the Times of India. But today, the idea seems less shocking. Let us now take a look at what Talageri has to offer.

His book is ambitious and broader in scope than what its title indicates. His goal in fact is to provide an answer to one of the great questions of ancient history — the problem of the origin and spread of Indo-European speakers. Here is the problem: going back at least to the eighteenth century, historians and linguists have puzzled over the fact that people from India and Sri Lanka to England and Ireland speak languages clearly related to one another. We now call these languages members of the great Indo-European family. The recognition of these as members of the same language family led to the perfectly natural supposition that the ancestors of these speakers must at one time have lived in a single homeland. Ever since that time, the location of this Indo-European homeland has been one of the central problems of ancient history. As Talageri observes:

 

When we consider the historical importance of the speakers of these languages, it becomes obvious that the earliest common history of these languages constitutes the most important unsolved mystery of ancient times. (pp 1-2).

 

One cannot seriously argue with this assessment. Some of his claims however will strike many as extravagant, if not audacious. Towards the end of his book he goes on to assert:

 

The whole description is based on the most logical, and in many respects the only possible, interpretation of the facts, ...

Any further research, and any new material discovered on the subject, can only confirm this description. There may be minor points on which rectifications may become necessary, such as the exact identities and the interrelationships of the various Indo-European groups, past and present; ... (p 368)

 

Can he really be serious — claiming that all future work can only lend support to his theory except on some minor points? But this is not all. Speaking of his use of the Rigveda to correlate the accounts found in the Puranas, he makes the astounding statement:

 

In respect of the Vedas, there has always been a school of opinion in India which holds that everything is contained in the Vedas. While this can be taken with a heavy pinch of salt, the fact remains that a handful of hymns (out of a total of 1028 hymns which constitute the Rig Veda) provide us the key for solving the biggest historical problem of all time. (p 6; emphasis mine.)

 

But strange as it may seem, his claims are not entirely unfounded. There are to be sure some problems; his chronology runs into contradictions both with Indian records and the records of ancient Europeans, especially the Celtic Druids. Fortunately this is not a major problem in the overall scheme. With the chronological framework that can now be formulated — with the help of data that was not available when Talageri was working on his book — most of these difficulties disappear. So it is possible to get a picture of the ancient age of the Vedas described in the Puranas, by studying the two together. I shall return to this point again, for this is now of paramount importance in any reconstruction of ancient history.

As I read it, Talageri's main contribution is that he shows that the Puranas actually contain a fairly complete account of ancient India going back some one hundred generations before the Mahabharata War. Anyone familiar with the past century or so of Indological research will have no trouble recognizing this as a profound transformation in perspective.

The truly radical point of departure in Talageri's approach is the fact that he does not accept the Rigveda as the starting point chronologically of the Aryan civilization of India. He shows convincingly that the Puranas preserve the earliest historical accounts, and the Vedas, in fact, confirm this. (Again it is important to note that this was much more radical five years ago when his book first appeared, than it may seem today.) And what makes all this possible is the discarding of the now discredited Aryan invasion theory. To his credit, Talageri does not stop there, he goes on to provide an alternative.

The first step in Talageri's reappraisal is to analyze and explode the Aryan invasion theory. There are at least two incarnations of this theory: the first is the nineteenth century version propagated mainly by Max Müller and his followers. This is essentially what is followed by the Indian establishment historians, and also what is found in most history books today. Then there is its more modern incarnation created among others by Gordon Childe, and whose principal exponent in recent times was probably Marija Gimbutas. This is the so-called ‘Kurgan theory’, more of which later. Talageri subjects these to a critical examination and shows them both to be baseless. His analysis of the so-called 'Kurgan' theory of Indo-European origins is on the whole more valuable than his critique of the old version which has been effectively demolished by others.

His criticism of the Kurgan theory is masterful. This theory identifies the material culture associated with the 'Kurgan' gravesites dated to the fourth millennium BC in South Russia and the Pontic region as belonging to the proto Indo-Europeans. It is now enjoying some academic vogue as the potential homeland of the Indo-Europeans. What is astonishing about the whole thing is that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that these people spoke Indo-European; there are no literary or linguistic records. But this has not deterred its proponents from claiming that they must have spoken proto Indo-European. And yet this identification is sought to be established by equating Kurgan archaeology with Indo-European linguistics! As Mr. Talageri perceptively notes the whole exercise is nothing but an example of "the extent to which any facts can be made to appear to ‘prove’ any hypothesis by an entrenched and predetermined scholarship."

The author next looks at the linguistic evidence which I'll try to summarize in as simple terms as possible. Though they exhibit great similarities, linguists hold that the Dravidian languages of South India and the so-called Indo-Aryan languages of North India belong to different language families. The similarities however cannot be brushed aside; they are by no means limited to vocabulary and lexical borrowing. A good sentence in a Dravidian language like Kannada for instance, when literally translated, becomes a good sentence in Hindi or Bengali. Also, Kannada has the same number of cases (eight) as Sanskrit while even the oldest Greek has only five. Nonetheless we can accept that the classification of languages as they now stand to be useful. But problems arise when linguists, and even worse, historians with preconceived notions, invoke 'linguistic evidence' to reconstruct the history and chronology of peoples and nations that existed thousands of years ago. This is a point that cannot be overemphasized.

Indo-Iranian is the main and the oldest member of the Indo-European group — or so the linguists tell us. Even the oldest records from outside India — the Hittite and the Mittani of West Asia — already show Sanskrit and not any hypothetical proto Indo-Iranian. And Vedic Sanskrit is by far the oldest Indo-European language known. Indian records are on the whole the oldest of Indo-European records. So any attempt to find an Aryan or Indo-European homeland outside of India at once runs into formidable difficulties. The only way to get around this is to claim that the Vedas describe their invasion from a foreign land as was done by the early invasionists, or fabricate a scenario disregarding all evidence as later done by the Kurgan advocates. The result often is grotesque logic. As Talageri points out in the case of one invasionist:

 

The very idea of considering the present-day distribution of Indo-European languages as making a "strong prima-facie case against the theory that India was the original home of the Aryans" is indicative of the bias involved. (p 68)

 

That is to say, the very fact that the oldest and the greatest concentration of Indo-European speakers happens to be in India is used as proof that the languages are not native to India! One could similarly say (with more justice) that the present day distribution of English is enough to make a very strong prima facie case against England being the original home of the English. And it is a similar story with Dravidian speakers. They are now concentrated in South India, but they are claimed to have migrated from the north, having come from "their original homeland in the islands of the Aegean and along the tracts of mainland along the Aegean Sea — Greece and Asia Minor" as Chatterji put it (p 68). It is probably unnecessary to point out that Chatterji's claim was based on no evidence at all.

So the thrust of the methodology is the argument that when a language or a group of languages is concentrated in a particular area, its speakers must have come from some place else where there is no trace of the language. This essentially is the logic behind making the Harappans Dravidian speakers. It is impossible to refute an argument when it rests on no evidence. (Jha’s decipherment of the Harappan script has demolished it.)

Happily the author does not follow such methods; he has shown sound judgement in balancing linguistics with other records from literature and archaeology. His interpretation of archaeology I am afraid is at times weak, and lands him in some chronological difficulties. But before getting to that part, I want to discuss what I see as his main contribution, the reconciliation of the Rigveda with the Puranic accounts. And this above everything else is what makes his book a landmark in the study of ancient India.

Until recently, and even today, the tendency has been to dismiss Puranic accounts as myth and treat the Rigveda as the primary historical source for ancient India, and even for the Indo-Europeans. This was a forced interpretation assuming the Rigveda to be the record of invading nomadic barbarians from the north. Anything in the Puranas that contradicted this interpretation was to be disregarded. This is absurd from the Indian point of view, for the Vedas are not history; it is the Puranas that embody the Indian historical tradition. The problem for modern scholars is that the Puranas know of no Aryan invasion from the northwest. In fact, they record several emigrations of Indians through the northwest into Central Asia and beyond.

The situation can be summarized as follows. The Puranas are unambiguous in placing the Aryan kings and dynasties within India, and give no evidence of any foreign associations. The Iranian traditions are equally firm in placing Vivanhant (Sanskrit Vivaswan) well outside Iran as their ancestor. And there is no other place anywhere in the world which has any tradition of ever having been ruled by any of the kings or dynasties named in the Puranas.

Further, the few historical glimpses that we do get from the Rigveda are confined to the Punjab region and the northwest, and they support the Puranic accounts. As Talageri observes:

 

In the face of this it is all the more remarkable that the geneological lists and traditional accounts given by the Puranas can be confirmed, in their geographical aspects, by comparing them with the relevant names attested by the Rig Veda. The fact that the Rig Veda seems to confirm the Puranic accounts in every case is positive proof of the geographical validity of the Puranic accounts. (p 293)

 

The crucial point that Talageri has grasped that most others have missed is the following: the geographical horizon of the Puranas includes all of North India, while that of the Rigveda is limited to the Sapta Sindhu region (the Punjab) ruled by the Bharatas or the Purus. As a result, the only non-Puru kings recorded by the Rigveda are those that came in contact with the Punjab region — or the land of the Purus. This does not indicate any movement of the Vedic Aryans from the Punjab region to the rest of India, but simply a reflection of this narrower geographical horizon of the Rigveda vis a vis the Puranas. Talageri’s most remarkable conclusion is the following: the Aryan dynasties' expansion in North India was from east to west and not from the nortwest to the Ganga valley as the invasionist dogma would have it. As Talageri observes:

 

... the joint testimony of the Rig Veda and the Puranas provides incontrovertible evidence that there were these dynasties ... during, and even before, the composition of the majority of the hymns of the Rig Veda: and that the movement of these dynasties took place from east to west and not vice versa.(p 297; emphasis added)

 

Even the Purus of the Saraswati heartland, who loom large in the Rigvedic tradition, were originally from the east. Sudyumna, whose grandson Nahusha founded the new kingdom on the Sarasvati was an Easterner from northern UP. The 'children of Nahusha' — the Purus — were responsible for the coding of knowledge in the Rigveda. Even then the rishis never claimed to have created them but to have only received from their legendary ancestors the Devas in the East — purva — which means both east and ancient. In fact it is so explicitly stated in the following remarkable passage from the Mahabharata (Ganguli's translation).

 

This quarter is called purva [east, also ancient] O! Brahmana, for the reason that in far older times, it was first overspread by the Devas. Here first chanted the Vedas, the glorious God who promotes the welfare of the worlds. Here was recited to the chanters of the Vedas, the Savitri by Savitar the Sun God.

Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva (108)

 

This is truly extraordinary! As the author points out, the only alternative is to assume "... that the ancient composers of the Rig Vedic hymns and the editors of the Puranas hatched a deep, and extremely subtle conspiracy to doctor their texts in such a way as to give a false picture ..." (p 297)

Next, Talageri effects a remarkable synthesis showing that several accounts in the Puranas, supported by the Rigveda, can help us trace the movement of Indo-European speakers from India out to the west, into Central Asia and even beyond into Europe. In particular, he makes an admirable case for the Druhyu people of the northwest and Afghanistan being driven out of India in a series of campaigns beginning with Mandhatr. These he claims became the Celtic Druids of England. A remarkable inference.

As noted earlier there are some chronological problems. His chronology places the first wave of the Celtic (Druid) migration in about c. 2500 BC. The Battle of Ten Kings in which Sudas drove out the Pruthu/Parthavas (Parthians), the Alinas (the Hellenes, the ancient Greeks) and several others are assigned to c. 2100 BC. And this is palpably too late. Though I am convinced that his identifications are mainly on target, we also know that the Druids were in Europe long before then. Their own tradition traces their origin to Asia in about 3900 BC. So the massive migration following Mandhatr's campaign must have taken place well before 4500 BC.

The basic problem is the author's acceptance of c. 1400 BC date for the Mahabharata War. He has incorrectly assumed that the date is supported by astronomy when in fact it is not. In reality, astronomy overwhelmingly supports the traditional 3100 BC (approximate) date. Harappan archaeology — and Jha’s decipherment — also contradicts the c. 1400 BC date for the Mahabharata War. (To be fair, Talageri himself has more than once told me that chronology was not one of his main concerns while writing the book.)

In summary, Shrikant Talgeri has made a very major contribution to the study of ancient history. His work cuts the Gordian Knot of Indo-European homeland and can pave the way for a rational approach to history. No serious student of ancient India can afford to ignore it.

N.S. Rajaram

 

Review of The Problem of Aryan Origins

When the long overdue revision of Indian history makes it to the history books, K.D. Sethna will have to be accorded on honored place. Long before the increasingly popular interpretation of the Harappan civilization as post Vedic became the norm, he had begun to chip away at the wall of superstition that protects the Aryan invasion theory. His book under review, The Problem of Aryan Origins, takes the reader on a grand tour of what is the central problem of ancient Indian history. When the first edition appeared in 1980 it must have seemed heretical indeed, questioning the Aryan invasion theory no less. In the years following, the Aryan invasion theory has lost much of its sanctity. In fact, no archaeologist I know of, Indian or Western, any longer believes in such an invasion. Its proponents are now decidedly on the defensive.

The second edition, which has more than doubled in length, includes five supplements, notably the long Supplement V, discussing the Finnish scholar Asko Parpola's major study: "The Coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the Cultural and Ethnic Identity of the Dasas" that had appeared in Studia Orientalia in 1988. Unless there is a major miracle that can reverse all the recent findings, Parpola's thesis will be seen by future historians as the last major effort in support of the Aryan migration hypothesis and the Aryan-Dravidian divide. And in his 220 page discussion (Supplement V), Sethna has written its final epitaph. Thus the book is a valuable study of the history and evidence relating to theories about the ancient Aryan society of India. (It is rumored also that Parpola is no longer working on the Aryan problem.)

The Problem of Aryan Origins is made up of distinctly two parts. The first part consists of a collection of more or less independent essays in thirteen chapters and two Appendixes that made up the first edition, and four Supplements added in the second. The second part is the truly monumental Supplement V, surely one of the most thorough analyses of the Aryan invasion theory ever written.

In dealing with a book as comprehensive as Sethna’s The Problem of Aryan Origins, it is impossible to cover all its salient features in a single review. I will therefore select a few that are likely to be of interest to the broadest cross section of potential readers. After introducing the basic problems of the Aryan invasion theory, he briefly discusses the famous Mittani documents from Asia Minor dating back to c. 1480 BC. These record a treaty between the Hittites and the Mittani in which Vedic deities have been invoked. Another Mittani document — a manual on horse training — was found to contain technical terms in what is virtually pure Sanskrit. Neither shows any Iranian traces. This is therefore a serious blow to the orthodox view that the Iranians and the Indians had not yet separated from their original Indo-Iranian 'homeland' until 1300 BC. The Rigveda, according to this theory, dates only from about 1200 BC at the earliest. But the Mittani documents give evidence of Sanskrit and not the earlier Vedic.

This impression is confirmed by more finds. All later documents, there are now many, show only the influence of Sanskrit and Indic languages. Diehard invasionists may maintain that they are really from an archaic form of Indo-Iranian, but the facts don't support the claim. As Sethna observes:

 

... most of the strange appellations have been reduced to their Sanskrit counterparts:

Artasumara = Ritusmara, "remembering the divine law [ritu]"

Artadama = Ritudharma, "abiding in the divine law"

Abirata = Abhiratha, "owner of a superior chariot" ...

 

Anyone who knows Sanskrit will recognize them. As Sethna observes: "We may without hesitation assert that hardly any of the Indo-Iranian looking names fall outside Sanskrit to raise the presumption of a possible origin outside India for the ancestors of the Rigvedic seers." (pp 32-33) So the influence of Sanskrit on these documents is undeniable.

 

In Chapter 5, the author gives an interesting discussion of the spoked wheel which was known to the Rigvedic seers and also the Harappans. The former is obvious to anyone familiar with the Rigveda, for example, the great hymn I.164 by Dirghatamas. At the same time, I find it interesting that no one (except a historian of science like Seidenberg) seems to have noticed that Baudhayana in his Sulbasutra gives an ingenious mathematical method for designing spoked wheels. It is one of the most interesting mathematical applications of antiquity.

Chapters 8 and 9 discuss the origin and presence of the Aryans in antiquity. Sethna feels that if the Aryans have are to be regarded as outsiders, their original homeland will have to be placed in the Arctic regions; the Rigveda permits no other interpretation. This in a circuitous fashion can be made to support the thesis that the expansion of the Aryans in India was from east to west. This as I pointed out in my review of Talageri's book has some literary support. There is no evidence whatsoever for a movement from the northwest to the Ganga valley before the drying up of the Sarasvati river. The other chapters are all interesting, for Sethna, in addition to being an outstanding scholar has a talent for shedding fresh light on problems by examining them in unusual ways. This brings me to the five Supplements that were added in the second edition.

The Supplements are all interesting, but I’ll cover the last four which will be of the greatest interest. In Supplement II, Sethna takes up the issue of the horse which was believed to be absent among the Harappans but is obviously important in the Rigveda. Much has been made of the supposed fact that the Harappan seals do not depict horses, and therefore the horse riding Aryans must have come later. That is, the Harappans must have been pre-Rigveda. This ‘argument by silence’ is not without risk. As Sethna points out, there is no depiction of the cow either, but seals depicting the bull are commonplace. From this are we to conclude that the Harappans had perfected a method of raising bulls without cows?

(Incidentally, it is wrong to say that the horse is not found on the Harappan seals. As Jha pointed out to me, the horse is depicted on at least one seal. It carries the message which, when deciphered reads, "arko ha asva" meaning "Sun like the horse". It is a clear reference to the symbolism of the Vajasaneya Samhita of the Yajurveda.Editor)

All this has now been rendered moot by more recent discoveries about the horse in ancient India. As Sethna notes, the Neolithic sites of Koldihwa and Mahagara have yielded evidence for the presence of the domesticated horse in India dating back to 6570 BC. This is far anterior to anything known in Eurasia. Thus the prominence of the horse in the Rigvedic lore is entirely consistent with indigenous origin of the Vedic Aryans. This is not to say that the Central Asian breed did not become more popular later; after all they have always been recognized to be a superior breed. But that does not in anyway contradict the presence or the domestication of the Indian horse. There is now evidence of Uralic (Central Asiatic) linguistic borrowings from the Rigveda (p 278). The knowledge of the horse goes back in India to well before the seventh millennium BC.

In Supplement III, the question shifts to the date of the Harappan civilization. It is of course widely known that the radiocarbon method tends to underestimate ancient dates. As a result, these dates have to properly calibrated which is something of an art. Initially, the ending of the Harappan civilization was given as 1500 BC to make it coincide with the postulated date of the Aryan invasion. Even a staunch invasionist like Mortimer Wheeler could not find scientific support for it and opted for 1700 BC. Possehl now finds it impossible for its end to be later than 1800 BC. (It may in fact go further back.Editor)

In Supplement IV, Sethna expresses his views on the archaeological finds at Dwaraka reported by marine archaeologist S.R. Rao. He seems to agree with Rao in attributing the inundation of Dwaraka to the flood following the death of Sri Krishna of the Mahabharata. This in turn means assigning 1400 BC for the Mahabharata War. How are we to justify this? Even setting aside the astronomical data which points to c. 3100 BC for the War, this contradicts Sethna's own determination that the Harappan civilization belonged to the Sutra period. The Sutra texts definitely know both the War and the Mahabharata characters. What happens to Panini's famous sutra — vasudevarjunabhyam vun? Or, how about the Chandogya Upanisad which knows Krishna the Son of Devaki? I suggest that we better not be hasty in drawing too broad conclusions from scanty archaeological data.

One of the inscriptions found at Dwaraka is claimed to read: 'Maha-kacha shah-pa' which is said to mean 'Lord of the sea, protect'. But this is based on Rao’s attempted decipherment of the Indus script which we now know to be wrong. This is insufficient ground on which to assign the site to the Mahabharata period. The date of Rao’s excavation is contemporary with the Kassite Empire in Babylon. Rao himself has found Kassite artifacts at the site. This suggests that the Dwaraka that Rao has excavated may have been a Kassite colony.

This brings me to Sethna's monumental Supplemental V. A few years from now Paropla's thesis is likely to be seen as the last hurrah of the Aryan invasion theory. Asko Poropla's work is scholarly and contains many significant contributions. But in the final analysis, his theory that the Aryans entered India in the second millennium BC is simply not tenable; it runs into too many contradictions. Even Parpola is forced to acknowledge that evidence for earlier Aryan presence is too strong; so he is forced into the argument that some Aryans came earlier but the main wave came in the second millennium. This is not very convincing. His attempt to decipher the Indus script assuming it to be proto Dravidian is also a failure.

Sethna's 220 page-long Supplement V on Parpola’s work is truly comprehensive and summarizes both sides of the Aryan invasion theory. The article is somewhat technical but absolutely indispensable for any student of ancient history, and not just of India. In this review, I can only touch on a small part of it.

One of the more interesting (and important) finds reported by Sethna is evidence regarding the domestication of the horse in South India in very ancient times. Evidence for the presence of wild horse as well as the domesticated variety has been forthcoming in India going back to Neolithic times (pp 219-222). Remains of the domesticated horse have been discovered in the Vindhyas and the Ganga valley going back to the fifth and even the sixth millennium BC. I already noted some of its implications earlier.

Then there is the issue of linguistics. Ever since the discovery of Sanskrit by European scholars in the eighteenth century, the Indo-European homeland of the hypothetical ancestors of the Indian and the European speakers of this great language family has been the Holy Grail of historical linguistics. Unfortunately, unrestrained speculation and its recent politicization by Indian Marxists has placed the whole field in some disrepute. As an extreme case one can cite a Marxist scholar completely ignorant of Sanskrit invoking something she calls Old Indo-Aryan to 'prove' that Aryan speakers could not have been native to India. It is not surprising that such appeals to non-existent languages by non-linguists should have brought some discredit to the field.

Leaving aside such exercises, we may note that comparative linguists have constructed a proto Indo-European — actually several of them — which they claim to be the ancestor of Sanskrit. It is well to note that neither comparative linguistics nor such reconstructions would be feasible without Sanskrit. The question now is — where was this Indo-European homeland if it ever existed? A point to be noted is that no language older than the Rigvedic Sanskrit is known. And the Rigvedia knows no homeland other than India. That is, if there was an Indo-European homeland, all evidence points to India. Sethna quotes the distinguished linguist Satya Swarup Misra on this point:

 

... Sanskrit is in all other respects nearer to proto-Indo-European than any other Indo-European historical language. This is a pointer to the fact that the place where Sanskrit exists or existed has a claim to be the original home of the Indo-Europeans. Greek, Hittite, Latin, etc. belong to a much later chrono-logical change: on the basis of linguistic change they are comparable to Middle Indo-Aryan ...

Thus Sanskrit is the most archaic Indo-European language and it also retains Indo-European flora and fauna quite appreciably. Therefore if India is accepted as the original home of the Indo-Europeans speakers many of the complications of the Aryan problem will be solved. (pp 273-274)

 

The key here is that the most natural solution to the problem is to accept India as the original home. In my review of Talageri's book I observed how the historical puzzles in the Puranic and Vedic accounts can be reconciled once we drop the idea of the foreign origin of the Aryans. This leads to the recognition that the movement of the ancient Aryan dynasties in ancient India was from east to west. Thanks to all this, we are now beginning to get a fairly coherent picture of ancient India. This makes the Aryan presence in India very much earlier than what history books tell us. And this early Indian presence of the Aryans is strongly supported by archaeology.

A particularly telling discovery in this regard is that of fire-altars at various Harappan sites like Kalibangan. This is very strong evidence for the Harappan civilization being Vedic Aryan. Even a staunch invasionist like Parpola is forced to acknowledge that the fire-altars of Lothal and Kalibangan, "... carry with them an indication of Indo-Aryan presence." (p 308)

 

This has far-reaching implications for history and chronology. As Seidenberg has shown, all of ancient mathematics evolved from the Sulbasutras, or 'Vedic mathematics' as they are often called. This places the mathematics of the Sulbas in the early centuries of the third millennium BC if not earlier. The Sulbas, of which the Baudhayana Sulba is the oldest and the most important, were composed explicitly to serve as technical manuals for the construction of fire-altars. This I believe is clinching evidence that the Harappans were Vedic Aryans of the Sutra period. If anything, some of the Sutra literature, at least the mathematical knowledge contained in the Sulbasutras already existed prior to the Harappan civilization. (This also has the merit of accounting for the science behind the architectural achievements of the Harappans. — Editor)

I will mention one more key piece of evidence. Sethna regards the knowledge of silver as post Rigveda. It is true that the Rigveda does not know silver; rajata, which appears only once in the Rigveda, is generic for white. Silver working began around 4000 BC. On the strength of this Sethna concludes that the bulk of the Rigveda must have existed by 4000 BC. This makes the Harappan Civilization post-Rigveda. This is exactly what the Harappan seals also, following the decipherment tell us.

In this review I have done no more than highlight a few of the treasures found in Sethna's book, particularly his great Supplement V. There is a great deal more — from linguistics to literary interpretations to comparative mythology and archaeology. In short, The Problem of Aryan Origins is required reading for every serious student of history.

Dr. N.S. Rajaram

 A Hindu Education : Early Years of the Banaras Hindu University by Renold, Leah 2005, 23 cm., pp. 256, OUP , 0195674839, US$ 12.94 or Rs. 550
What makes an individual or institution Hindu? What is a Hindu education? Can religious identity co-exist with modern western institutions? A Hindu Education provides a comprehensive account of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), the nature of education at one of the most influential Indian institutions during the late colonial period. BHU played a major role in the creation of a nationalist sentiment during India's independence movement. Situating the institution in the larger context of a movement to foster Hindu identity, the author investigates the designs of British officials and Indian founders of the university for uniting students from diverse backgrounds under a common banner of Hinduism. She discusses the administration, academics, publications, student life, and political atmosphere in the early years of BHU. She also shows how the university responded to various challenges faced by the institution in the context of colonialism, Hindu-Muslim relations, and he independence movement. The book explores the complex inter-relationships between religion, education, identity formation, and resistance patterns. It also offers a different perspective on university edcation in colonial Inda.

 

History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization : India's Interaction with Southeast Asia (Volume I, Part 3) by Pande, G.C. (Ed.) 2006, 29 cm., pp. xxxi+704, figs., maps, Centre for Studies in Civilizations , 8187586249, US$ 47.29 or Rs. 2010
The volumes of the Project of the History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization aim at discovering the main aspects of India's heritage and present them in an interrelated way. These volumes, in spite of their unitary look, recognize the difference between the areas of material civilization and those of ideational culture. The Project is not being executed by a single group of thinkers who are methodologically uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. In fact, contributions are made by different scholars with different ideological persuasions and methodological approaches. The Project is marked by what may be called 'methodological pluralism'. In spite of its primarily historical character, this Project, both in its conceptualization and execution, has been shaped by scholars drawn from different disciplines. It is for the first time that an endeavour of such a unique and comprehensive character has been undertaken to study critically a major world civilization like India. The volume 'India's Interaction with Southeast Asia' edited by Professor G.C. Pande provides a much needed synthesis of new research on ancient Indian contact with Southeast Asia. This volume situates Indo-Southeast Asian interchange within a global civilizational perspective, in which the old notion of the Indic 'motherland' sustaining the Southeast Asian civilization is discarded in favour of a 'reciprocal' model that explores the uniqueness of the lands on both sides of the Bay of Bengal. The volume gives equitable academic space to both dimensions of Indo-Southeast Asian contacts: the Indic influences that shaped Southeast Asian cultures as well as the native genius of southeast Asians that refined Indian art and architecture into the wonders of Angkor Vat and Borobudur. The contributions to the volume come from art historians, archaeologists, linguists, historians and philosophers well known in their field. The volume is relevant for the specialist as well as the layman. Contents : Editors / General Introduction / Contributors / Introduction / Section I : Historiography, Ethnography and Archaeology / Historiography of Southeast Asia / Geography of Southeast Asia / Ethnography and Languages of Southeast Asia / Indian Influence on the Place Names of Southeast Asia / Archaeology of Southeast Asia: Cultural Perspective / Section II : Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia / Southeast Asia as the Indian El-Dorado / Early Indian Ocean in the Context of Indian Relationship with Southeast Asia / Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean in the Puranas / Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean in Jaina Literature / Greek Geographers on the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia / Section III : Gleanings from Political and Cultural Relations with India / History and Cultures of Kambuja and Champa as known from their Inscriptions / Suvarnadvipa / Sanskrta and Javanese Literature in Southeast Asia with special Reference to Bali / Section IV : Temple Art / The Hindu Temples of Cambodia / Barabudur: Climax of Buddhist art / Time, Space and Astronomy in Angkor Wat Section V : Religion / The Development of Buddhist Religion and Literature in Cambodia and Vietnam / Buddhist Religion, Literature and Art in Thailand / Theravada Buddhism and its Influence in Myanmar / Buddhist Religion, Art and literature in Sri Lanka / Hinduism in Southeast Asia: Burma, Champa, Kambuja, Ceylon, Bali and Indonesia / Index.

History as a tool for damnation

BEFORE I write about the book, let me ask a question: “What's history?”

History should be an accurate rendering of events and facts of that particular period which is being written about. It should not be an interpretation of the events of the past to suit a predetermined theory already housed in the historian's mind. Since the late eighteenth century we have been fed on Western scholarship, for whom the recorded history of India goes back only five to six centuries before Christ.

It is this point which has been well highlighted in the book under review—The Origin of Human Past. The author has quoted equally well what the European Indologists had to say on the subject. He has quoted William Jones, who in AD 1774 arbitrarily concluded that “the first ages of the Hindus were chiefly mythological and thus the historical age of India can not be carried further back to 2,000 years before Christ.” Several others too, like Wilson, Max Muller, Buhler and Cunningham subsequently stressed that “no date or public event can be fixed before Alexander, that is, 326 BC”, without any evidence. This could also be because Western scholarship was influenced not only by prevalent European historical and philosophical methodologies but also colonial interests. The fact that the history of India before this period has been very conveniently ignored by European Indologists forms the basis of this book.

An outstanding feature of this monograph by V. Lakshmikantham is his effort to ridicule the Western historians' pronouncements that Dravidians had been invaded by the Aryans of the Rig Veda in the second millennium BC and that there was serious antagonism between the north and south of India. He explains how the British, by the middle of the ninteenth century, overburdened with increased administrative responsibilities due to their spreading empire and reeling from the revolt of 1857 by Indians, appointed two commissions which reported that the Brahmins were the main cause of the mutiny and thus decided to target this class. John Mills wrote that there was nothing to be proud of in India's past, that Hinduism was trash, that Sanskrit was no language at all but was coined by the Brahmins to exercise their superiority over the rest. It is interesting to read how the British appointed the German Vedic Scholar, Max Muller to translate the Rig Veda who, along with the others recorded that India's history went back only five to six centuries before Christ, ignoring the fact that there was traditional prehistoric events through Puranas and Itihasas describing the civilisation and social life of the people of India.

The author has successfully countered the Western arguments for propounding the Aryan invasion theory for discrediting not only the Vedas but also dubbing the Aryans as settlers when the Sapta-Sindhu area between the Rivers Saraswati and Drishadvati was Bharat and home of the Aryans who diffused in different directions all over the world.

The second important highlight of the book is that the chronology of ancient history was deliberately reduced by more than 1200 years by the West “to erroneously identity Chandragupta Maurya (1534-1500 BC) as the contemporary of Alexander (356-323 BC), whereas it was actually Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty (326-320 BC). This thus resulted in the placement of other important events and personalities to fit the framework of the reduced chronology.”

Lest it be misunderstood, I wish to point out that we need not reject outright what we have learnt so far of India's history from foreign sources or assimilating each and every argument put forth by Dr Lakshmikantham. What needs to be said is that all history should be taken with a pinch, nay a bigger dose, of salt, more so if it has been written by or for the ruling class of that particular period.

It however goes without saying that this monograph by Prof. Lakshmikantham, a professor of mathematics and a researcher, merits to be read seriously to get a glimpse of India's historic past which has been ignored by historians for reasons best known to them; but more so that this study comes at a time when the nation is rediscovering its identity and reclaiming its pride of place.

—Book reviewed by Manju Gupta

The Origin of Human Past by
V. Lakshmikantham, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Rs. 340.00, pp. 362

Aryan invasion theory, book reviews, bibliography, discu Author: Kaushal, Posted: 04 Jul 2000 — Book Review – July 3,2000, ‘Aryans and British India’ by Thomas Trautmann, University of California Press,Berkeley 1997

In a review of the book titled ‘Politics of History’, which I have posted earlier in this thread, I remarked that the study of History in Europe and Britain, especially Ancient Indian History or Pre-history as some would call it, has been tainted by racial and political considerations. The story of why and how this happened, is worth recounting, and has been done fairly thoroughly by Thomas Trautmann in a book titled ‘Aryans and British India’, published by University of California Press,1997. Trautmann is a Professor of History and Anthropology at the University of Michigan, where he teaches Indian History, among other subjects. He has also written a book on Dravidian Kinship. Trautmann was a student of AL Basham , to whom the book is dedicated.


The book is scholarly in tone and a little difficult to read, with somewhat long sentences, but that should not be a hindrance to Indians, who tend to favor long sentences. Even so, it is well worth the effort. Starting with the meaning of the word Arya and its interpretation by the Europeans , the author leads the reader through the history of this subject, to where we are today. The spectacle of a dark skinned people who were evidently civilized challenged the Victorian ideas of that age.’ Race science’ responded to this enigma of India by redefining the ‘Aryan’ concept in narrowly ‘white’ racial terms.
‘By the end of the nineteenth century , race science and Orientalism ( the study of linguistic affinity between Indo European languages) reached a deep and lasting consensus in regard to India – what Trautmann calls the racial theory of Indian civilization’. So we come to the state of affairs as it exists today. This theory holds that India’s civilization was produced by the clash and subsequent intermixture of the fair skinned Aryans, supposedly from Europe and the dark savages native to India.
While MaxMueller was the one primarily responsible for this so called racial theory of Indian civilization, he was far from being a racist himself. MaxMueller believed that ‘the same blood ran in the veins of the soldiers of Clive as in the veins of the dark Bengalese (sic). But he could not accept that the antiquity of the Vedic people stretched back in time much farther than the creationist view to which he was wedded.


I recommend this book for reading not so much for the attractiveness of these views, or lack thereof, but to get a glimpse of the manner in which a people and a society will subvert scholarship, in order to rationalize ordinary human frailties such as lust for conquest, greed, and the almost universal need to feel superior to every other race, creed, religion, ethnic etc.

There is one more point to be made ,namely the tendency to study the language and culture of a people without ever consulting them. When Europeans studied Sanskrit and the Vedas the paradigm they followed was that of studying insects in a jar. The science of studying insects is known as entomology. The insects for obvious reasons have little say in the matter. Such was the case also when they studied the civilization of the Indics. The opinion of the Indics hardly mattered and they were rarely consulted and in many instances such as that of Max Mueller and Franz Bopp (max Mueller’s professor) they had never set foot in India or conversed with a pundit. In just as many instances such as that of max Mueller they could not converse or chant a single sloka in Sanskrit much less understand one when it was chanted in front of them. But that did not stop them from claiming to be Sanskritists of the first rank. Neither did their dilettante status  in Sanskrit stop Bopp and Sir William from deciding that there must have been an ancestral language (which they called Proto Indo European (PIE for short) spoken anywhere but in India. Now that I ponder on the reluctance of  Max Mueller to visit India, the suspicion is overwhelming that the real reason he never wished to set foot in India was that he would thereby be spared the embarrassment of facing a real pundit in Sanskrit and have to then admit how shallow his knowledge of Sanskrit was.
 

Trautmann while not quite as explicit , leaves little doubt that racism  and racial theories were at the root of much spurious  scholarship during much of the Victorian era and even after.

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Sarasvati River and the Vedic Civilization: History, science and politics by N.S. Rajaram

 

            The discovery of the Sarasvati River, lauded in the Vedas as the greatest river, and the decipherment of the 5000-year old Indus script are the two most important breakthroughs in Indian history to have taken place in recent decades. The story of Sarasvati’s rediscovery in our time is also the story of the rediscovery of Vedic India. Here is a book on these epoch making developments by one who has been at the center of these developments.

 

            The book shows unequivocally— Harappan civilization was Vedic. Harappan archaeology represents the material remains of the culture and civilization described in the Vedic literature, and flourished in the same geographic regions.

 

In the present book, N.S. Rajaram, a scientist as well as historian, marshals evidence from a wide range of sources, from archaeology and astronomy to the newly deciphered Indus seals, to shed light on the origins and the achievements of probably the most important civilization in world history. He goes beyond current theories and highlights important facts about natural history and population genetics that point to climate changes in Southeast Asia and the coastal regions rather than invasions from Central Asia or Eurasia as holding the keys to understanding the origins of the Vedic civilization.

 

 In the process he settles important questions like the “Aryan invasion” and the “Harappan horse” by exposing the political currents and the personalities that gave rise to the brand of history imposed on the children of India by colonial authorities and their present day followers. To place it in the historical context, the book includes a summary of the current state of these politically motivated moves, including the recent controversy over textbooks used in California schools.

 

 

 

 

Contents

Foreword by David Frawley

Preface: Science in the service of history

 

1.         Introduction: Science and belief

2.         Vedic Sarasvati: River lost and found

3.         Cobwebs of colonialism: The Aryan problem

4.         History and politics: Subversion of scholarship

5.         Vedic people: Image of the ocean

6.         The language puzzle: India and Europe

7.         Vedic Age: On the banks of the Sarasvati

8.         Birth of writing: Harappan language and script

9.         Beyond the invasion: Looking south and east

 

Epilogue: ‘History is always written wrong’

 

Supplement I: The current state of Aryan theories

Supplement II: Science in Ancient India

Supplement III: Date of the Mahabharata War

 

Bibliography

Index

 

 

 

About the author

            Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram is a mathematician, linguist and historian who after a twenty-year career as an academic and industrial researcher in the United States turned his attention to history, in which he has several notable achievements. He collaborated with the renowned Vedic scholar Dr. Natwar Jha on the decipherment of the 5000 year old Indus script leading to their epoch making work The Deciphered Indus Script. In May 1999, Rajaram deciphered the newly discovered sample of what has been called the “world’s oldest writing,” showing it to be related to the Rigveda. Most recently, by a detailed study of human population genetics, he has shown that the people of India are not recent immigrants but have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years. He sees history as an extension of natural history rather than as a field for political and social theories.

 

Publisher: Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi; Availability: June 2006

 

Price (in the U.S.) $18.00 (hardback)

 

Ordering information: (www.bibliaimpex.com)

 


 
 
 








 





 

 

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